Raising an anxious teenager is hard. Living with mental health issues is hard and so is looking after a child who suffers. I have an anxious teenager who suffers from anxiety and depression. I’m not going to lie… it is hard!
Dealing with panic attacks is draining. You don’t know if what you’re doing is the best thing for them. There’s no training and you’re thrown into the deep end.
You don’t know where to turn or where to go to get help. You don’t know if it’s normal teenage behaviour or whether there’s something more going on.
You don’t know when they’re being genuine or when they’re using their anxiety to get out of doing something they don’t want to do.
You don’t know how far to push them and you’re constantly second-guessing yourself. Worrying whether you’re pushing them too far beyond their comfort zone or whether you’re not pushing them enough.
It causes arguments between parents. Jealousy between siblings who wonder why you seem to go easier on the anxious teenager. Why they seem to get out of doing something by throwing a tantrum.
It can be scary. Very very scary.
You worry if they’ve been in their bedroom too long. You worry they’ve done something to hurt themselves. You worry about what you’re going to find when you open that door. Your biggest fear is that one day their anxiety will take them over the edge and they will join the many other anxious teenagers who end their lives.
They go from extremes, one day they can open up and tell you what their worry is, the next they become a closed book. Trying to pry information out of them can lead to a meltdown.
Things that “normal”, oh how I hate that word, teenagers take for granted, cause arguments as panic takes over.
You find yourself adrift on a boat, at the mercy of the winds which are your anxious teenager’s own fears and anxieties.
You don’t know what to say to make it better and sometimes it feels like anything you say just makes it worse.
You become fearful when your anxious teenager is in the midst of an attack, your walls become covered in holes as temper and frustrations are taken out on them and you worry that one day you might be next.
Your heart breaks when your anxious teenager sobs, their chests heaving with the force of their cries. They just want to be normal. They want their fears to go away. They’re fed up with feeling sick because their stomach is churning with fear. They’re terrified that things will get worse. And you sit there, holding them tight as your own tears stream down your face and you wish you could take this horrible horrible curse from your anxious teenager.
You blame yourself, oh how you blame yourself. You’re constantly second-guessing yourself, going over everything from the minute you found out you were pregnant to where you are now. Was it something you did? Was it something you ate when you were pregnant? If you had done something different would they be different?
You lie in bed, exhausted and drained but unable to go to sleep. Unable to get your own mind to shut down. You go through everything that has happened that day. You’ll wish you had said or done things differently.
You’ll worry about what the next day will bring. Will it be a good day or a bad day? Will you be able to get your anxious teenager up and to school or will it be another missed day?
You have the school and the welfare officer on your case about your anxious teenager’s absence. You try everything you can think to get them out of bed, you shout, you swear, you threaten, you plead, you try everything you can think of to get them out of bed when all they want to do is hide under their duvet as their fears and anxieties overwhelm them.
You worry that you’re not doing what’s the best thing for them. You’re constantly emailing and phoning people, chasing appointments and trying to get your anxious teenager the help that they desperately need.
You worry you’re neglecting your other children. You try and be there for them as well but all you hear are complaints. Your children moan that everything seems to be all about their anxious teenager sibling. That they must be your favourite child. Yet every time you try and deal with them, you still have to deal with your anxious teenager.
You get frustrated. You feel like you’re bending over backwards trying to help them and all they do is throw it back in your face.
Your relationship with your spouse is tested. You have different views of how to deal with the anxious child and they feel neglected as well. That the children come before them. You can’t remember the last time you went out for a meal or just spent some time together as a couple.
You lose friends. They stop inviting you out because you can’t go. Playdates go out of the window, even with the younger ones as you never know what your anxious teenager’s behaviour is going to be like.
You’re constantly reassuring your anxious teenager. Trying to help them see that just because those boys across the road are laughing it doesn’t mean they’re laughing at them.
Your younger children start to copy your anxious teenager’s behaviour and you worry about them. Are they just copying their sibling, trying to get the same treatment that their sibling gets? Are they trying to get out of school because their anxious sibling never seems to go? Or is there more to their behaviour? Are they also showing the early signs of anxiety and depression? If they are how can you help them? How can you nip it in the bud now before it develops into full-fledged anxiety?
You find yourself with less and less patience. You hate yourself when you find yourself snapping at the children, snapping at your spouse. How can you expect your children to control their temper if you can’t? Then the guilt starts again. Eating at you. Telling you that it’s all your fault. That if you were a better parent none of this would be happening! You start to believe the lies your mind is telling you. You find yourself on your own downward spiral into depression.
And when you finally have five minutes to yourself, you feel guilty as your children come in search of you. How dare you sneak off to bed or for a bath with a glass of wine!
But the one thing you have to remember. Please, please, remember. You need to take care of yourself first. You cannot be there for your anxious teenager, your other children, your spouse or your pets if you don’t take care of yourself first!
You got this! You are an amazing mum and you got this!
For more information and stories about life with my anxious teenager, you can find them all on my Childhood Mental Health Page